Soto catches Gillette rookie honor
Cubs backstop wins inaugural NL award for April
April has come and gone and with that comes a tip of the cap to Cubs catcher Geovany Soto as top rookie in the National League.
In the charter version of Major League Baseball's newest award, Soto outpolled teammate and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, right-hander Jair Jurrjens of the Braves and Cardinals right-hander Kyle McClellan to win the Rookie of the Month Award presented by Gillette.
Rangers outfielder David Murphy was so honored in the American League as online fan voting played a pivotal role in both league awards that includes a $5,000 charitable donation. Voters also will have a shot at attending this year's All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium or a 2008 World Series Game.
Soto, who was the 2007 MVP of the Pacific Coast League, hit .341 with five homers, eight doubles and 20 RBIs in April while posting a most impressive OPS of 1.059. Valued for both defensive and offensive skills, Cubs manager Lou Piniella counseled him this spring to use all fields and not simply rely on his power to left field.
"We've told Soto it would be very difficult for him to try to pull the ball solely and strictly -- that you have to have perfect timing -- and very few players have success in the big leagues that way, if at all," Piniella said.
Balloting for the new Rookie of the Month Award presented by Gillette begins exclusively at mlb.com/gillette during the first week of each month to help determine the previous month's winners.
The site lists nominees in both leagues, as well as unique statistics, video clips and season-long editorial content built around the rookie theme. Voting will be based on statistical criteria, and the online fan vote will represent 20 percent of the overall vote -- with the remaining votes coming from team writers and club broadcasters.
Once voting is concluded, Gillette, MLB and Major League Baseball Advanced Media announces the winning rookie for each league in a monthly press release and congratulates the winners online at mlb.com/gillette. A Rookie of the Month trophy then will be presented to each of the winners, and Gillette will make a donation to a charitable organization in each award recipient's name.
There could be something big in it for voters as well. Everyone who participates in the balloting will be automatically registered for a chance to win either a trip to the 79th All-Star Game July 15 at Yankee Stadium or to one game at the 2008 World Series -- depending on the month of entry.
Soto, who has thrown out 10 of 24 potential basestealers this season, hit .389 in 54 at-bats with the Cubs last year and appeared in two games in the NLDS.
Soto appreciated the award.
"We're in May, and there's a lot of games to go," he said on Friday. "I just want to feel like I belong here. I've had some tough times and good times [in April], but that's baseball. You have to adjust to every situation."
It could be a battle every month between Soto and Cubs teammate Fukudome for the rookie honors.
"I hope we have a tough race," Soto said. "That means we're doing good. I hope he hits .400 and 30 home runs. It's all healthy competition."
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.